Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘cca

Idaho: 30-Year-Old Federal Lawsuit over Prison Conditions May Be Nearing an End

with 3 comments

In the early 1980s, a federal judge found that “virtually every inmate” assigned to a particular unit of the Idaho state prison had been “brutally raped.” And that was on top of overcrowding, limited access to psychiatric and medical care, inadequate food, lack of warm clothing, and other unconstitutional conditions at the prison. A number of inmate lawsuits were consolidated into one, the so-called “Balla case,” which remains ongoing to this day. (The inmates were initially represented by one of their own, subsequently represented by the ACLU, and are currently represented by the Western regional law firm Stoel Rives.) Now, as the AP reports, U.S. district court judge Lynn Winmill will soon decide whether to discontinue the component of the lawsuit addressing violence and health care. Although overcrowding remains a problem, Judge Winmill suggests that it may be better addressed by new lawsuits.

The invaluable Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, a website of the University of Michigan law school, provides a summary of the litigation complete with copies of the filings. The clearinghouse notes that at least one result of the ongoing litigation has been to fuel privatization of Idaho’s prison complex:

In response to the decision, Idaho prison officials transferred more than 300 prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America prison in Appleton, Minnesota, at a cost of $1.1 million. According to news reports, prison officials plan to ask the state legislature for $160 million to construct three new prisons, and for an additional $7.9 million to cover the cost of housing overflow prisoners both out-of-state and in county jail cells.

Vermont Supreme Court: Prisoners Transferred Out-of-State Have Same Rights as In-State Prisoners

leave a comment »

The Vermont Supreme Court recently ruled in a case that, although legally binding only for Vermont prisoners, may be of broader interest to the many states that transfer inmates to out-of-state facilities because their own prisons are overcrowded. Out-of-state prisons are typically run by private companies that may impose different rules, and may provide prisoners with fewer rights and privileges, than state-run facilities. So, the question that logically arises is whether it’s permissible to treat prisoners differently based solely upon the happenstance of where they’re housed, or whether out-of-state and in-state prisoners must be treated equally. This week’s Vermont Supreme Court ruling suggests the latter, in a ruling with two parts. First, the court holds that out-of-state prisoners are entitled to all the same statutory rights and privileges that in-state prisoners have under Vermont law. Second and potentially farther reaching, even for rights and privileges provided for by prison policy rather than statute, the court suggests that out-of-state prisoners may have a viable equal protection challenge under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Here are the facts: Vermont’s prisons have two rules in place to facilitate inmate communication with family and friends outside. First, when making phone calls, inmates have a statutory right to choose between making collect calls or paying with debit calling cards. Second, although this rule is not statutory, prison policy is to provide all inmates with up to seven free postage stamps per week. It so happens that, through a contract with the private Corrections Corporation of America, Vermont houses about 600 prisoners in a private Kentucky facility where inmates can only make collect calls (which are more expensive and which don’t always work with cell phones) and receive no free stamps. But, the Vermont Supreme Court recently held, all Vermont prisoners, regardless of where they’re incarcerated, have to be afforded their state statutory right to calling cards. As for the postage stamps, the court remanded back to the trial court to flesh out the record on whether there’s a constitutional equal protection violation. That component of the ruling may be of broader interest since it’s arguably a closer question, and rests not on Vermont law but on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment: Read the rest of this entry »

In Federal Lawsuit, (Yet Another) Woman Alleges She Was Raped by Employee at Kentucky Private Prison

with one comment

A former inmate at Kentucky’s Otter Creek Correctional Center, a private prison run (like most private prisons) by the Corrections Corporation of America, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was raped repeatedly by a CCA employee who threatened to block her parole if she did not comply with his demands. This inmate is apparently one of many who alleges she was raped by Otter Creek employees. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports:

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an e-mail Thursday that the employee was terminated last March. …

At least six workers at Otter Creek have been charged with sex-related crimes involving inmates at the facility.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced last month that the state will move more than 400 women prisoners out of Otter Creek given the allegations of sexual misconduct by male workers there.

The women prisoners will be transferred to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia this summer, and the nearly 700 male inmates now there will be moved to Otter Creek, which has more than 650 beds, and other prisons in the state.

Note that private prisons are considered “state actors” to the extent that they can be sued for constitutional violations — but unlike state employees, private prison guards don’t enjoy qualified immunity, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399 (1997).

Written by sara

February 27, 2010 at 8:15 am

Private Prison Company’s Contracts in California Have Soared

leave a comment »

The Capitol Weekly has this report on the Corrections Corporation of America, the leading private prison company in the U.S., whose contracts in California alone have soared from $23 million to $700 million, just since 2006.

Even in a state accustomed to high-dollar contracts, the 31-fold increase over three years is dramatic.

During the same period, the company’s campaign donations rose exponentially, from $36,750 in 2006, of which $25,000 went to the state Republican Party, to $233,500 in 2007-08 and nearly $139,000 in 2009.  The donations have gone to Democrats, Republicans and ballot measures. The company’s largest single contribution, $100,000, went to an unsuccessful budget-reform package pushed last year by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The lack of competitive bidding has raised concerns about in the Democrat-controlled Legislature about prison-system procurement.

CCA operates five out-of-state facilities for the Golden State — holding about 8,000 California inmates (to increase to about 10,000 under the latest contract) — in Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. CCA, and some state officials, argue that the company has helped alleviate California prison system’s severe overcrowding problem.

Written by sara

January 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

%d bloggers like this: